Lead singer Burton Cummings says that he wrote the lyrics to this song after getting a very severe case of sunburn while in Hawaii. He composed the track with guitarist Kurt Winter, who joined the band for the Share The Land album following the departure of Randy Bachman.
The version released as a single has a slightly different mix.
Suggestion credit: Barry Kesten - Bellmore, United States, for above 2
The spoken section at the end ("They gaped upon me with their mouths...") was taken from Psalm 22 in The Bible.
Camille from Toronto, OhThe Guess Who: A group that doesn't get nearly the credit it deserves for giving us some of the most memorable music of the early 70s.....songs that can be found on everyone's soundtrack to their life. Very passionate music. Burton Cummings voice is incredible. It wasn't until a couple of years ago when I uploaded their 'greatest hits cd (borrowed from the library) that I realized how many of their songs I knew and loved. Their hits are not played nearly enough on radio these days.
Steve from Whittier, CaHey, but you guys are leaving out of the database a PRIME big hit of theirs, "No Time", 1969, #4 in 1970.
Richard from Lansing, MiBurton has said that he wrote this song after his first bad trip on acid. As with many of his songs they twist the meaning. This is actually an anti-drug song, and was used in the 70's as a public service annoucement against HARD drugs. In fact one of his quotes in the PSA was that "he believed some of the drug laws need to be changed, but as far as hard drugs go, you should just stay away from 'em." FYI 'Truckin' off Across the Sky' is also an anti-drug song. The first verse goes 'Get on board the REAPER wants to take you for a ride.'
Dirk from Nashville, TnWhatever the lyrics might have meant to say or said, it was the guitar on this recording that made it. To have two wailing lead guitars playing harmonized leads was unheard of on pop radio. It was WAY ahead of even the Allman Brothers. Find me a 1970s rock star who wasn't blown away and influenced by the guitar on this record and I'll show you somebody whose memory is clouded with smoke.
Noel from Port Orange, FlThis a continuation of the prior comment. At the end of the song Psalm 22:14,15 is quoted which is about the crucifixion of Jesus: "I am poured out like water and all of my bones are out of joint, my heart is like wax and is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd and my tongue cleaves to my jaws, and you have brought me into the dusk of death." Another strange song of Cummings' is "Friends of Mine". It has a few comments about death and the hereafter. But, all in all, "Hang on to Your Life" surely is an eerie and weird song---how could those lyrics have sprung from having a "bad sunburn"?
Noel from Port Orange, FlCummings may have written the song after a sunburn in Hawaii but the song has a really dark meaning. It's about a guy who was trapped in a basement apartment in New York who was confronted by people who followed a dark power. They were smoking pot and doing drugs. A woman gave the guy a small ball of wax that had a drug in it--truth serum. He took the drug.They threatened to kill him if he didn't give up his soul to them. In exchange for his soul they let him live. He was screaming, "I don't want to die!"---same as the lyrics. While they were breaking him down he said, "is this really real?"---same as the lyrics. His two friends set him up for the fall--hence the words, "thinkin bout betrayin a friend"
The Isley Brother's song, "Contagious," peaked at #19 on the Billboard Hot 100. This meant that the band of brothers became the first group to score a Top 50 hit in six consecutive decades on the chart.